Written for OLWG #35
Warren pushed his glasses back up on his nose and blinked twice, “Hmm,” he sang under his breath as he hunkered back down to study the pile of fan folded computer paper that lay on the table in front of him.
“What is it?” Rosemary asked from across the lab.
“It’s these data,” Warren replied. “There’s nothing surprising here.”
“That’s not right,” Rosemary replied.
“I know it’s not right,” Warren answered. “I think we all were anticipating that these would turn the scientific world upside down, but they don’t. Everything is quite ordinary. There are no revelations or unexpected events. Everything is exactly as one would expect it to be.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Rosemary shot back at him with just a trace of impatience in her voice.
He folded his hands atop the reams of paper and glared at his colleague across the room, he knew what was coming, “Then, what exactly did you mean, Rosemary?”
“You know exactly what I meant, Warren. I meant that you should have said that it was THIS data and that there was nothing surprising there.”
“Let me remind you Rose, that ‘data’ has a singular form, ‘datum’. This is not unlike ‘media’ and it’s singular; which is ‘medium’. Educated people preserve this distinction and use plural conjugations with data. You’re the one who’s wrong.” He picked up the stacks of printouts and moved over next to her; dropping the paper on her table with a loud bang. He stared at her with a challenging glare.
“No, Warren; only pompous, self-important, overbearing, pseudo academics, like yourself would say such a thing. Reasonable people would argue that the distinction is lost in spoken language. In the information that you were trying to convey; the word ‘data’ is a singular mass noun, like money or research. Face it you’re wrong.”
Warren’s face was turning red and he was beginning to sputter.
“Can you hand me that book please?” Rosemary asked.
“Which?” Warren sprayed, clearly flustered by her challenge.
“Next to your elbow, on my book shelf is a New York Times Styleguide. Would you hand it to me please?” She held out her hand to receive the book and when she had it; immediately began flipping pages. “Here… here it is, and I quote, ‘data is acceptable as a singular term for information: The data was persuasive.’ See, I told you!”
“Read on a bit Rosie.” Warren said as he looked over her shoulder, “it goes on to say, ‘in its traditional sense, meaning a collection of facts and figures, the noun can still be plural: They tabulate the data, which arrive from bookstores nationwide.’ I would counter, therefore, that I’m right. Perhaps you may be right as well but I am clearly more right than you.”
“Not so fast Warren, look at the next page. It clearly states, ‘In this sense, the singular is datum, a word both stilted and deservedly obscure.
“HA, I’m obviously more right than you as datum seems to have been declared stilted and obscure! You hate to be wrong, don’t you?”
“OK, OK Rosie; I’ll concede that in this case you might be slightly more correct than I, but I would point out that we both appear to be correct, technically. I would also point out that they’re serving egg salad in the cafeteria today. I love egg salad almost as much as I love you. Would you like to join me for lunch?”
“It would be my pleasure sir. May I take your arm?”
This week’s prompts were three:
- The epic properties of ordinary
- Can you hand me that please
Don’t think! Write!
You have 25 minutes but if it takes longer – just don’t tell anyone.